NEW YORK – Moments in history arrive where fundamental decisions must be made on how to keep the American people secure. The nation has reached one of those defining moments, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Wednesday night.
"Under President Bush (search) we have put in place new policies and created new institutions to defend America, to stop terrorist violence at its source, and to help move the Middle East away from old hatreds and resentments and toward the lasting peace that only freedom can bring," Cheney told delegates at the 38th Republican National Convention (search) in New York City.
"This is the work not of months, but of years, and keeping these commitments is essential to our future security. For that reason, ladies and gentlemen, the election of 2004 is one of the most important, not just in our lives but in our history."
Cheney and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (search) of Georgia launched a double-barreled attack against John Kerry, Bush’s Democratic rival in the race for the White House.
The two men, as well as other GOP loyalists, served up scathing reviews of Kerry’s Senate record Wednesday as they sought to portray their own candidate as a strong, determined leader who does not waver when it comes to securing America and its people. But the junior senator from Massachusetts, they argued, has flip-flopped on issues like the War on Terror (search) and can’t seem to stick to his policy decisions.
"For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure," said Miller, the convention's keynote speaker, pointing out that the senator opposed weapons systems like the B-1 bomber (search), F-1A Tomcat and Patriot missile that are helping win the War on Terror.
"This is the man who wants to be the commander in chief of our U.S. armed forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?" Miller asked. "Twenty years of votes can tell you much more about a man than twenty weeks of campaign rhetoric."
Kerry himself on Wednesday defied tradition and made a public appearance while the Republican convention was in progress.
"Extremism has gained momentum" as a result of administration missteps in Iraq, Kerry told a national convention of the American Legion, before adding that the War on Terror is a winnable one with the right policies in place.
"When it comes to Iraq, it's not that I would have done one thing differently, I would have done almost everything differently" than the president, Kerry said.
Democratic running mate John Edwards spoke directly to the events on stage at the Republican convention.
“There was a lot of hate coming from that podium tonight," Edwards said. “What the Bush administration just doesn’t get is that a stronger America begins at home. And John Kerry and I have the right plan to lead America in a new direction because we know that we can do better.”
Miller and Cheney were the highlights of the third day of the Republican's convention in the Big Apple to officially pick their presidential candidate. Earlier in the evening, Bush was unanimously nominated as that candidate and Cheney accepted his nomination.
Bush received 2,508 delegate "yays" after three days of roll call votes. Afterward, the sea of party faithful in Madison Square Garden danced in the aisles to "Gimme Some Lovin'" and waved red, white and blue signs saying "GOP For Me," "W Roar 2000," "W The President," "Bush Rocks" and "4 More Years." At the end of the night, Brooks and Dunn closed out the entertainment.
Cheney: America Sees Two John Kerrys
Cheney's speech to the convention Wednesday night sets the stage for Bush's own acceptance speech Thursday. The president arrived in New York late Wednesday for a meeting with firefighters, making the connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and subsequent fight against terrorism that has defined his presidency.
Besides criticizing Kerry’s record, Cheney’s main message was that Bush will work to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and that the president will not falter in going after terrorists — or nations that harbor them — so long as it’s in the interest of the American people.
"Sept. 11, 2001, made clear the challenges we face … just as surely as the Nazis during World War II and the Soviet communists during the Cold War, the enemy we face today is bent on our destruction," the vice president said. "The fanatics who killed some 3,000 of our fellow Americans may have thought they could attack us with impunity … but if the killers of Sept. 11 thought we had lost the will to defend our freedom, they did not know America … and they did not know George W. Bush."
Cheney also praised the men and women in the armed forces who are bravely serving their country abroad, saying those who have been lost will forever be remembered.
"The men and women who wear the uniform of the United States represent the very best of America," he said. "They have the thanks of our nation. And they have the confidence, the loyalty, and the respect of their commander in chief."
As for Kerry, Cheney blasted the senator’s opposition to President Reagan’s defense initiatives during the 1980s, his vote against Operation Desert Storm, his comments saying he would lead a "more sensitive War onTerror" and his declaration that he will forcefully defend America after the country has been attacked.
"My fellow Americans, we have already been attacked, and faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us, we cannot wait for the next attack," Cheney said. "We must do everything we can to prevent it — and that includes the use of military force."
Although the Kerry camp argues that Bush should have rounded up a larger coalition before going into Iraq, Cheney said: "The president has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many, and submitting to the objections of a few. George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people."
Jumping on the flip-flop bandwagon, Cheney said that although Kerry disagreed with many of his fellow Democrats on whether to go to war with Iraq, he supported the move initially. "Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself. His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion. And it is all part of a pattern."
Kerry has spoken both for and against the No Child Left Behind Act (search), the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Patriot Act (search), Cheney said, receiving chants from the audience members of "flip-flop, flop-flip," as some waved actual flip-flops in the air.
"Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas," Cheney said. "It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two John Kerrys."
Bush, on the other hand, can be counted to make the right decisions and stick with them, the No. 2 in the White House argued.
"In the great divide of our time, he has put this nation where America always belongs: against the tyrants of this world, and on the side of every soul on earth who yearns to live in freedom," Cheney said. "Fellow citizens, our nation is reaching the hour of decision, and the choice is clear. President Bush and I will wage this effort with complete confidence in the judgment of the American people."
Miller: Kerry Offers a ‘Yes, No, Maybe Bowl of Mush’
Miller said party politics have gotten so dirty, they’ve obscured the path toward leading a successful War on Terror, and Democrats are to mostly to blame.
"While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander-in-chief," Miller told convention participants at Madison Square Garden.
"Like you, I ask which leader it is today that has the vision, the willpower and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family? The clear answer to that question has placed me in this hall with you tonight. For my family is more important than my party."
Miller, who in 1992 was selected by Bill Clinton to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, said today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
"Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator … No one should dare to even think about being the commander in chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home."
He said Democrats "don’t believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy."
Going After Kerry’s Record
Day three’s convention theme is "Land of Opportunity." Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Ohio Rep. Rob Portman addressed aspects of the economy. Portman's state, one Bush-Cheney campaign official told FOX News, is "the backdrop" against which the economy is being measured in this election.
The first Asian-Pacific American woman to serve in the Cabinet of a president of the United States, Chao stressed Bush’s commitment to making sure every American who wants a job can find one.
"For us, President Bush speaks our language - the language of opportunity, family and a better future for each new generation … our ability to put the talents of a nation to work depends on the re-election of President George W. Bush," Chao said.
As small business owners took the podium, giving testimonials to how Bush's economic policies have helped their fledgling companies, speakers took every chance they could to point out the contrasts between Bush and Kerry and to blast the senator's legislative record.
"John Kerry didn’t meet a tax increase he didn’t like," said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. "This is one case where John Kerry never flip flops."
Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum praised Bush’s faith-based initiatives, which include giving financial help to couples seeking marriage counseling with a therapist or religious leader.
"John Kerry's response - he joined Senate Democrats in blocking the president's welfare reform and faith-based initiatives. He says he's 'concerned' about the separation of church and state," Santorum said. "Senator Kerry should worry more about the separation of children from their fathers.
"We all agree, religion in America must never be established, but it also must never be exiled," he added.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also immediately went after Kerry, saying the Bay State is where Kerry "will be the junior senator until 2008."
"If you want someone who voted for tax hikes 98 times, then yes, send him. If you want cuts in intelligence funding, then yes, send him. If you think that during the great national policy debate of the 1980's Ronald Reagan was wrong and Ted Kennedy was right, then by all means send in John Kerry," Romney said.
Romney also highlighted ways Kerry has so-called "flip-flopped" on the War on Terror.
"I don't want presidential leadership that comes in 57 varieties. I want a strong President who stands his ground," Romney said. "I want George W. Bush.
"Bush is right and the ‘Blame America First Crowd’ is wrong," Romney continued. "Americans will rise to every challenge we face."
Michael Reagan, who introduced a video tribute to his father, thanked everyone who supported his family after the late president’s death.
"Ronald Reagan (search) didn't win the Cold War and ignite our economy with funny stories and beautiful words. He wasn't just a great communicator, he communicated great ideas. Where did his ideas come from? They came from his beliefs," Michael Reagan said.
"He believed America was placed between the oceans to be a beacon of freedom for the world, a place where man was not beholden to government, government was beholden to man ... Throughout his life, his belief in the American people never wavered."
The eight-minute video, produced by Phil Dusenberry for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, made extensive use of the deceased president’s voice and contained Nancy Reagan's first public remarks about the outpouring of emotion that greeted the death of the president two months ago.